02/17/2014 11:48 EST | Updated 04/19/2014 05:59 EDT

Are We Taking "Motivational" Fitness Too Far?

Push yourself in the weight room. If you want results, you have to. No argument there. But where do we draw the line? I can't say I'm eager to see the results of pushing far beyond typical thresholds on someone's body.

Lately I've been seeing a lot of chatter in the training world, training blogging world, training article world, and arbitrary training-related-social-media-post world that pertains to exercise intensity; namely little tidbits to help inspire mental toughness, complete with quotes similar to the one below:

"Learn to work through the pain, and then push harder."

Especially the past while, I have noticed a heightened number of statements or quotations referring to "how hard you're working" in the gym - a mental checkup, as it were. The quotes or statements then go into an exhaustive list of painful, and ill-health inducing reactions from training to absolute exhaustion... and then training some more.

Nope. Not on board with this.

We've got to understand that the majority of people who are reading this stuff - or anything on the internet - are people who aren't professional athletes, competitive lifters, or even in wipe-their-ass shape to begin with. Here's a question - Why would I personally endorse that you're not training hard enough to see real results if you're not lying on the ground in a puddle of sweat, with scrapes on your shins from deadlifting, cuts on your hands from broken callouses, spotted and blurred vision from such insane exertion, and blood lactate levels that leave you immobile for minutes on end? Get real.

And the Masses Follow

My next question is this: Who made the rules? Why does it take that kind of training to be dubbed "a serious trainee"? How many people (sports athletes, recreational lifers, etc.) do you know who applied that mentality and were able to enjoy long term health benefits? The problem with blindly applying this stuff is that the average Joes only look to the immediate results of a workout like that as a benchmark to gauge their training prowess.

I'm dizzy, I'm soaked, and I can barely walk. I'm seeing spots as I lay here on my back short of breath, and I'm damn near nauseous. This is what training's all about.

Says who? Can't the same illogical thinking process be used by someone who hires a bad or incompetent personal trainer?

Push yourself in the weight room. If you want results, you have to. No argument there. But where do we draw the line? In a number of articles I've talked about weight training and exercise turning from being something health and fitness related, to more of a conquest - a game or "sport" where numbers, and, ahem, your finishing time matter more than anything else. It can encourage lifters to put their health and the way they actually feel to the side, because the workout has all of a sudden preceded everything in the world in importance. Not cool. Especially for someone who has less common sense in these areas.

I'm a huge proponent of working hard in the weight room. I don't skimp with my clients, and you'll see dozens of my own training videos on the 'net that show that I don't skimp with myself either. But I'm not an idiot. I'm not training for any reason other than to get in better shape, and improve my health and physical appearance. I know that doing squats until I want to puke or black out isn't going to be the crucial line I have to straddle during each workout in order to facilitate my results. And yeah, I'm pretty good at this stuff. So imagine pumping it into the mind of someone who isn't. All of a sudden you've jump started a skewed mentality that will only lead to more judgmental and imbalanced behaviour over time.

Basically, if people think this is what training should be all about, I have to say that I fear the next decades of their life. I can't say I'm eager to see the results of pushing far beyond typical thresholds on someone's body. It's almost like exercise has become another "athletic career" where the players (after retirement) are banged up, and bummed because of the rigors of their previous lifestyle.

As personal trainers, we need to watch what we say to our clients and watch how we influence the masses. We can all encourage one another to pull deep, lift strong, and push hard. But how far do we take it? On that note, I've got a workout to do - and I'm pretty sure I won't be crawling home.


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